In January 2015, the Government announced a dramatic increase in the fee for issuing Court proceedings in money claims worth £10,000 or more. Following Parliamentary approval on 4 March, the new fees will come into force on 9 March. Until now, the highest issue fee for a money claim has been £1,920. For claims issued on or after 9 March 2015, the maximum fee will be £10,000.
The increase in issue fee follows a two-part government consultation in December 2013. Part one proposed fee increases aimed at recovering close to the full cost of the civil court system through fees, transferring more of the cost to the user and reducing the cost to the general taxpayer. These were implemented last year. Part two of the consultation proposed setting some fees above cost, charging ’enhanced’ fees to reduce the net cost of the courts to the taxpayer and to require those who use the courts to make a greater contribution to running costs.
At present, the issue fee is fixed according to the value of the claim, with a maximum issue fee of £1,920 for claims valued at £300,000 or more. From 9 March 2015:
- issue fees for claims worth less than £10,000 will remain at their current levels;
- issue fees for all claims valued at £10,000 or more will be 5% of the value of the claim;
- the maximum issue fee will be £10,000 (5% of £200,000); and
- a claim for an unspecified amount will incur the maximum fee.
For all claims valued at £200,000 or more, the issue fee will be £10,000. This fee structure will apply to all money claims, as well as counterclaims with a value of £10,000 or more.
The January announcement regarding the issue fee increase caused wide-spread concern. Many, including the senior judiciary, consider that the increase may limit access to justice and damage London’s attractiveness as a centre for international dispute resolution. The Law Society, supported by the Bar Council, the Commercial Bar Association, the Chancery Bar Association and others, has threatened to seek judicial review of the increases.
It remains to be seen what the impact of the increases will be. The Government says that it will monitor the case-load and keep the position under review. If there is no obvious impact, in terms of a reduction in numbers of claims issued, it may be that this trend of requiring court users to pay higher fees will continue with the introduction of a daily hearing fee in commercial cases. This was proposed in the December 2013 consultation but not implemented this time.